Reuter: US sees Russia letting OSCE back into Chechnya soon
- US sees Russia letting OSCE back into Chechnya soon
By Elaine Monaghan
WASHINGTON, Nov 2 (Reuters) - The United States sees Russia making a key
concession to Western critics of its military campaign in Chechnya within weeks
by letting the Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe back into the
shattered, independence-minded region, U.S. officials said on Thursday.
But they said Russia still had a long way to go in addressing alleged
widespread atrocities carried out by its forces in Chechnya, including in
"filtration camps" where human rights groups say detainees were beaten and
No one knows the full extent of what happened in Chechnya. Journalists were
heavily restricted in the tiny mountainous region and the risks were high for
foreigners even before the fighting because of the high incidence of kidnapping
But human rights groups and Western governments say thousands of civilians were
killed due to Russia's indiscriminate use of force. Moscow denies this and says
it was trying to root out separatist "terrorists."
"What we've seen and what discourages us the most is the reluctance, certainly
on the part of the military, to look seriously at the burden of evidence," John
Beyrle, deputy to the ambassador-at-large for newly independent states, said in
an interview, adding, "Some very terrible things happened."
But the OSCE could help meet largely unmet, basic humanitarian needs on the
ground, said Bennett Freeman, deputy assistant secretary of state for human
"Our expectation is that the group should be back in and functioning certainly
before the end of the year, if not this month," Beyrle said, adding that only
technical issues of security and diplomatic status stood in their way.
Winter can be cruel in Russia, all the more so in Chechnya, where an already
anarchic infrastructure was wrecked in conflicts between the Russian army and
Chechen rebels first in 1994-95 and again in fighting which erupted in
Grozny, the capital, was battered by Russian forces in the first and in the
second conflict, which was prompted by clashes in neighbouring Dagestan and
bomb blasts in Russian cities which Moscow blamed on the Muslim separatists.
The fighting continues, partly propelled by President Vladimir Putin's
determination to get rid of rebels he vowed to "rub out" before he inherited
the Kremlin mantle following Yeltsin's dramatic resignation on New Year's Eve.
Part of Russia's reluctance to admit the OSCE, Europe's top rights watchdog of
which Russia is a member, was because Moscow was worried it would launch
straight into a mediating effort, said Beyrle, a fluent Russian speaker
involved in President Bill Clinton's Russia policy since he came to power in
He said the time was not yet right for peace talks but was encouraged by
Putin's statement at a European summit last month saying a political solution
was required to the conflict.
Freeman praised the work of human rights ombudsman Vladimir Kalamanov and human
rights commissioner Oleg Mironov who he met in Moscow last week, saying they
were working hard to gather data about human rights abuses.
But they have no mandate to prosecute, only to pass cases on and very few
prosecutions have been instigated despite Moscow's promises to the contrary.
"We are also concerned by what appear to be continuing abuses," Freeman said.
The U.S.-based Human Rights Watch again blasted Russia in a report last week
for Chechnya, saying tens of thousands of refugees were too scared to go home
for fear their men would be arrested or killed.
- I find the use of the past tense in this article interesting. "Bad things
happened"? Since when is this situation 'over'? The west has yet to face the
situation. If Bush gets elected to the presidency of the USA next week, will
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